Class AA spring football: Jefferson County looks to replace key players

This week marks the second of the Jefferson County Warriors’ spring session, which concludes May 17 with a scrimmage at Grovetown — admission is $5, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. 

Between now and the scrimmage, the Warriors, led by JB Arnold — in his 19th season at Jefferson County — will give their players as many different looks at different positions as possible. They must replace seven starters on each side of the ball, including their quarterback and all most all of the offensive line.

“We need to know what to fix fundamentally,” Arnold said of evaluating the upcoming season’s group this spring. “We need to see who’s raw, what to implement and give a lot of kids a lot of looks.”

At quarterback, the Warriors graduated Jaden Jenkins, who signed with Georgia Southern after helping lead the team to a 10-3 finish, including a trip to the quarterfinals, the furthest the team had advanced since 2015 when they reached the semifinals. Junior Aquavious Hunter (5-foot-10, 150 pounds) and seniors Carlton Brown (5-foot-9, 154 pounds) and Desmond Beale (5-foot-8) will compete to replace Jenkins.

Arnold said the three contestants have similar skillsets to each other and the Warriors will run their offense based on that.

“They’re all tough, fast, hard-nosed kids,” Arnold said. “In the past, we’ve spread five receivers wide and threw it all over the place. Last year with Jaden we ran a single Wing-T. This season, we’ll probably run a multiple offense.”

Arnold is used to the task of reloading and making a success out of it. His first season in 2001 was the only in which the Warriors failed to qualify for the playoffs. Turning the program around began that spring, before the 2019 Warriors were even born.

“When I took over we only had 40 kids in the program,” he said. “The first thing I had to do was get people out to spring practice, and 120 kids came out. That was probably way too many, but we went to work.”

As Arnold was building the program, he sought the advice of a mentor, the late Luther Welsh (1932-2011), former coach at Thomson.

“He said, ‘I’m not going to judge you by your first, second or even third year,’” Arnold said. “’You’ll be judged by your fourth year.’ I took that to heart. That’s when we had our first winning season. Since then, we’ve been developing a culture of one county, one team.”

As for this season, Arnold wouldn’t go public with his expectations for the Warriors other than to say he’s not worried about a potential slow start, which is what stunted them in 2018.

“I don’t want to give you a coaching cliche but we’re taking it one game at a time,” he said. “We’ll start (with a summer scrimmage against Burke County), then open with Swainsboro and Washington County, and then it’s onto region play. So, one day at a time. We started 0-2 last year and then went on a 10-0 run to the quarterfinals.”

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